THE OIL OF PEACE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Years ago a visitor returning from Dublin told of how he put MacDuncan, the village fool, to the test. He poured the contents of his purse out on the ground, and told him to take any coin he wished. MacDuncan's eyes lit up, and the people of the village gathered around for another demonstration of his consistent idiocy. He would brush the dust from each coin and study it with indecision and puzzlement. They roared with laughter after he again flung aside the gold and silver, and selected the shiniest copper to keep as his own.
A native told the visitor that he always takes the big coin of small value, and that he never learns. Before the visitor left Dublin he got alone with MacDuncan. He said to him, "People say when they offer you sixpence or a penny you always choose the penny. Do you not know the difference in their value?" "Certainly," replied the so-called fool." The difference I know, but if I took the sixpence do ye think they would try me again?" The village fool was really a very clever beggar who made fools out of the rest of the villagers by keeping them convinced he was a fool. His wisdom consisted in his ability to see that the slow but consistent flow of small income would bring him out ahead in the long run. He was not short sighted. He knew that success depended on keeping a good thing going.
This is essential not only for village fools, but for all those who would be fools for Christ. One of the toughest tests all of us need to pass is that of perseverance. We need to keep on going for Christ. Many make a good start for everyone who can endure to the end, and cross the finish line. It is not easy to keep a good things going. We are often tempted to grab the gold that glitters in the immediate present, and snatch the silver coin of sin, and cut off the consistent slow growth in Christ likeness.
In verse 9 Peter warns Christians that if they lack the virtues he lists here, they will be blind, shortsighted, and in danger of falling. As Christians we must be interested about a consistent Christian life of climbing. We must see far ahead, and live for the long run. It is not enough to own a plane. It must be maintained for continuous flying. If faith is the runway from which we launch into the higher Christian life, and grace is the fuel that empowers us for the flight, then in this analogy, peace represents the oil that keeps us going.
Peace is the lubricant that keeps a good thing going. It keeps us in flight, and protects us from the heat of frustration, and the wear and tare of worry and tension that can cause us to lose altitude, and even crash. No flight will keep going long without oil, and no Christian will climb far without the lubricant of peace. That is why Peter is concerned that Christians have peace multiplied to them along with grace. A solid runway of faith, and a full tank of grace with a low supply of peace can mean serious trouble. Grace and peace must be together, and must be multiplied.
A Kansas cyclone hit a farm house just before dawn. It lifted the roof off; picked up the bed on which the farmer and his wife slept, and set them down gently in a nearby field. The wife began to cry. "Don't be scared," her husband said, "We are not hurt." "I'm not scared," she sobbed, "I'm just happy. This is the first time in 14 years we have been out together." Some partners need a cyclone to get them together, but not grace and peace. They are always together, and this is a necessity. They are as close to each other as gas and oil. They are found together all through the New Testament. God is a God of grace, and a God of peace. All three persons of the Godhead are connected with peace.
Paul says of God the Father in I Thess. 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly." Rom. 16:20 says "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet.." God the Son is called the Prince of Peace, and Paul says of Jesus in Eph. 2:14, "For He is our peace..." One of the fruits of the spirit is peace, and Paul in Rom. 14:17 says, "..the kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Paul refers to the whole of the good news in Christ several times as the Gospel of peace. If we had time to quote all references to peace, you would recognize it to be a fundamental Christian word inseparably united with grace. Like love and marriage, horse and carriage, gas and oil, so grace and peace go together.
Peace is both freedom from outward disturbance and a lack of disturbance within. Both are great values, but Peter and the rest of the New Testament uses the word primarily to refer to the inner peace of the soul. Even a pagan recognizes the distinction between external and internal peace. Epictetus, the ancient philosopher, wrote, "You see that Caesar seems to provide us with great peace; no longer are there campaigns, battles, great gangs of robbers, and pirates; one can travel whenever he pleases and sail from East to West. But can Caesar provide us with peace from fever too...from love..craving? He cannot. From sorrow? He cannot. From envy? No, he cannot secure us against anyone of these at all. Only the inward peace of a philosopher's mind.....renders the world a place of peace."
The peace of mind cults are nothing new. For many centuries men have recognized the power of the mind to produce tranquility. Do not laugh at the principles of the peace of mind cults, for they are sound, and they do work, even in the lives of unbelievers. They are simply using the principles of Scripture, but they substitute some other value in the place of God. Biblical peace is a matter of the mind being focused on God and His sufficiency, and not on the dark facts of life. Scripture says, "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee." Jesus said that so much lack of peace is due to focusing our minds upon the needs of tomorrow when we should be concentrating on our adequacy for today in Christ. Christian peace, like the philosophical peace of those outside of Christ, is largely a matter of the mind, but the major difference is the object on which the mind is focused. The philosopher finds his peace in reason, but the Christian finds his peace in the author of reason, which is God.
The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. It is a comprehensive word, and it expresses the ideal state of life. It is the life of completeness, wholeness, health, and harmony. One can only have such a life when one is secure in the knowledge that he has a life in harmony with God. To know God is the essence of peace, as it is the essence of grace. Both multiply, as Peter says, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. In Job 22:21 we read, "Aquaint thyself now with God, and be at peace..." To be aware of a personal God who cares for us in this infinite universe is the beginning of biblical peace.
At peace with God! How great the blessing
In fellowship with Him to be,
And from all stains of sin set free,
How rich am I such wealth possessing.
The Roman year formerly began in March because Romulus so appointed it because he loved Mars, the god of war. But Pompilius changed it to January in honor of Janus, the peaceful god of the door and new beginnings. Jesus did more than this for peace. He was, and is, the door to new life in peace with God. Jesus instituted a new age of peace in which God and man are reconciled through His death upon the cross.
By Christ on the cross, peace was made;
My debt by His death was all paid;
No other foundation is laid
For peace, the gift of God's love.
The Gospel begins as a message of peace. When John the Baptist was born, his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed his ministry would be one of peace. In Luke 1:77-79 we read of how he is to prepare the way for the coming Prince of Peace. "To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sin, through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." The Christian way is the way of peace, for Christ is our Way, and Christ is our Peace.
The message of the angels in Luke 2:13 is, "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth for men whom He favors." Let us not forget the distinction between external and internal peace, for Jesus says He did not come to bring external peace. On the contrary, His coming brought much trial and tribulation into the lives of His followers. The peace that can be ours is peace with God, and the peace of God. Peace with God is a matter of salvation, and the peace of God is a matter of sanctification. The latter is the peace that Peter has in mind for multiplication in the Christian life.
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin,
The blood of Jesus whispers, peace within.
Herbert Lockyer says, "Alas, not all who are at peace with God, have peace within! They have the title to it, but fail to enjoy their inheritance." Christians almost always try and operate with an inadequate supply of the oil of peace, and because of this there is no smooth steady climb, but a constant stopping for repairs. F. B. Meyer said, "If we allow worries, anxieties, careworn questions to brood in our hearts, they will soon break up our peace, as swarms of tiny gnats will make a paradise uninhabitable."
But how can we exterminate the gnats that ruin our peace in a world so full of trouble, and real things to worry about? How can peace be multiplied when the facts of life subtract it at a frightening rate? How can anyone have inner peace in this world of wickedness and war? The question is easier asked than answered, and easier answered than applied, but the committed Christian has no alternative but to seek to gain more and more of the oil of peace that he might keep navigating higher and higher into the pure white clouds of Christ likeness.
First let's be honest and recognize that the burning up of the oil of peace in the heat of anxiety is not helpful but harmful. Herbert Gray in his book The Secret Of Inward Peace writes, "I once heard a man say to another, 'how can you keep so calm and unruffled while all these terrible things are happening...bombs on our dear country; ruin falling on our houses; women and children being maimed and killed; whole nations enslaved; and our very existence as a nation threatened? Don't you know these things? Have you no feelings?' Gray says this would be his answer: 'Well, if you can prove to me that by being all "het up" and running around emotionally distressed I shall make things any better, I will take to such courses. But if by so doing I shall only make things worse for others and let my own person be weakened, I will try to keep my inward peace." He will trying to obey Jesus and be the light of the world, and not the heat.
There is always the danger of a false peace which arises because of ignorance and indifference. This is not the peace of Christ, for He knew the full story of evil, and the pathetic state of man, and yet in calmness and compassion He did all in His power to be the answer, and He succeeded. Jesus experienced life just as we do with all of its positive and negative aspects. Yet in the midst of the negatives Jesus had peace because His life and mind were focused on the positive. There is no other way to gain the oil of peace and inner security but by having a mind centered on Christ and His will. Paul says in Rom. 8:6, "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." Peace is a matter of the mind, and the subjects the mind consistently considers. The carnal mind is focused on things, and like a motor with no oil they burn up with the friction of frustration. The spiritually minded person is receptive to the things of God, and meditates on the truth, hopes, and promises of God, and thereby the oil of peace is multiplied, and so they keep on enduring to the end.
Thomas a Kempis wrote, "All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace." Oil is only found by digging, and so also with the oil of peace. If you want to strike oil, you have to go deep. If you are unwilling to dig deep into God's Word, and think deeply about all of its implications for life, then you have no one to blame but yourself if the frictions of life cause a breakdown, and you lose attitude in your flight. God will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Him. May God grant you the wisdom to maintain an adequate supply of the oil of peace by keeping your mind focused on Him and His Word. This was secret of the peace of Christ. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." It is by having His mind that we will always have a supply of the oil of peace.